Nick Longman to head up TUI Travel’s UK distribution in board restructure

TUI Travel’s UK distribution businesses are to be headed up by former integration director Nick Longman as part of a board restructure.

The move, as predicted by Travel Weekly, follows the recent resignation of TUI’s distribution director Derek Jones and comes as director of  marketing and product Tim Williamson is appointed in the new role of customer director on the mainstream board.

Longman, who has been in charge of integrating the First Choice and Thomson businesses since the merger almost a year ago, takes responsibility for all the TUI Travel group’s UK high-street travel agencies, hypermarkets and call centres as well as third-party independent travel agents and the web, with immediate effect.

The web is a new part of the role to ensure all distribution businesses are ultimately sold through the same selling system. Already for summer 2009, First Choice and Thomson holidays will be sold through the same system in the shops. The group has yet to fully integrate online sales on to one selling platform.

UK and Ireland managing director Dermot Blastland said: “Customers should be able to come into the shop, go online or phone us and the experience should be seamless from their point of view, whichever route to market, and it isn’t at the moment.”

There are no plans to ditch either of the group’s high-street brands or to significantly change the current mix of business, with around 30% of UK sales coming via the web and a further 30-40% through retail shops, added Blastland.

“There may be more growth that we can get [through the web] but we have to be careful we don’t try to push water uphill. The idea that everybody wants to book online is not true,” he said.

The decision to create a new board role of customer director is to ensure all parts of the business are working together on customer service.  Williamson will continue to have responsibility for marketing the Thomson and First Choice brands, but the overseas and customer service areas will now report into him.

Blastland added: “There has not been enough deep customer insight – really talking to customers and monthly tracking of customer views across all our customer service points. We ought to be a superb customer service company. There will be a lot of work to do over the next 24 to 36 months.”

Other changes include David Burling, who was previously director of tour operations and now becomes commercial director, while Garry Wilson, previously head of purchasing who left to work for Travelport, is rejoining the business as director of purchasing, reporting into Burling. The Irish tour operation Falcon/JWT will be represented on the board by Damien Mooney.

Meanwhile, David Harper moves from his role as overseas director for TUI UK to become group accommodation purchasing director, reporting into Will Waggott, commercial director for the TUI Travel group.

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